The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Familiar faces in Italy as Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic for 10th win in Rome

May 18, 2021

It was just another week at the office for Rafael Nadal as he won his 10th Internazionali BNL d’Italia title and his first ATP Masters 1000 crown since the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in 2019. He defeated World No. 1, Novak Djokovic, in a thrilling three-set match 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.

It was to no one’s surprise that Sunday’s contest featured both Nadal and Djokovic, making it the 17th consecutive year that either one or both players reached the Italian Open final.

Nadal was coming off a disappointing outing in Madrid, where he fell to the eventual winner Alexander Zverev in the quarter-final. Whether that lit a spark in the Spaniard’s game or not, Nadal looked on a mission in Rome.

He defeated Jannik Sinner, Reilly Opelka, and got revenge on Zverev – all in straight sets. If there was any doubt that the King of Clay would make another final appearance, it was against the 22-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who took Nadal to a deciding third-set tiebreak in the round of 16.

For Djokovic, his tournament got off to a familiar start, taking down Taylor Fritz and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina convincingly in the opening two rounds. However, in the quarter-final, a rain delay suspended play in his match against Greek superstar Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The following morning, down one-set-to-love, Djokovic managed to come back and defeat Tsitsipas to advance to the semi-final against Italian local Lorenzo Sonego. Djokovic won the match 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 to set up another Djokovic versus Nadal final.

The entertaining three-set match eventually went the Spaniard’s way. Nadal secured his record-tying 36th ATP Masters 1000 title and is now a win away from evening his head-to-head series with Djokovic, which he currently trails 28-29.

Following the match, Djokovic was asked his opinion on the younger talent in the game, in which he jokingly responded that he, alongside Nadal and Roger Federer, are the Next Gen players. Nadal was amused by the comment, which rings true, as the 34-year-old emerged victorious once again.

The Italian Open was the last ATP Masters 1000 tournament until the National Bank Open in August. In the meantime, the world’s best are using the next two weeks to prepare for Roland-Garros in Paris.  

Federer is set to make his return to the court at the Gonet Geneva Open later this week, while Nadal and Djokovic are taking a well-deserved week off to rest.

There is an exciting group of players in the running for the 2021 French Open title. Zverev and Tsitsipas, for example, have been playing outstanding tennis over the past few months. It will be exhilarating to see if anyone will be able to dethrone the 13-time champion, Rafael Nadal.